The musician, dancer and artist FKA Twigs has kept herself busy over the last three years. At the end of 2016, she released a 35-minute short film that she directed, Soundtrack 7, that offered a behind-the-scenes look into various Twigs projects. She also appeared in ad campaigns for Nike and the Apple HomePod, the latter directed by Spike Jonze.
What’s largely been missing from the past three years is new music. So in April, when Twigs unexpectedly released her first single since 2016, “Cellophane,” with a gorgeous accompanying video directed by Björk collaborator Andrew Thomas Huang, it was only a matter of time before she brought the world of her hedonic glitch-pop back to the stage.
Twigs premiered her new show, Magdalene, this week at Los Angeles’ Palace Theatre, and she brought the performance to New York’s Park Avenue Armory for a two-night residency on Saturday and Sunday, May 11th and 12th as part of Red Bull Music Festival New York. Before the Saturday night show, the audience gathered inside the vast, cavernous space under an ethereal blue light; the stage was completely dark, so dimly lit that the only indication of where it was was the crowd standing in the usual triangle formation that spilled out further and further as it got closer to showtime.
When the lights finally came up, Twigs stood in front of a closed curtain in what resembled a black-and-white jester’s outfit, tap-dancing to an a cappella audio track of a female voice speaking in monosyllables. She then performed the song “Hide” before the stage went dark again.
Twigs reappeared under a flurry of strobe lights in a cloud-like costume; its centerpiece was a pirate-hat-shaped cap, topped with two swan feathers and covered in white streamers that lightly floated along with the slightest movement of her head. It’s difficult for a larger-than-life performer to make themselves appear like an apparition – especially one whose lyrics are so corporeal – but in that moment Twigs looked wholly otherworldly.
Against a projected backdrop of a cloudy blue sky, Twigs performed synth-heavy versions of the songs “Water Me” and “Pendulum.” A quartet of dancers joined her for spirited renditions of “Figure 8” and “Video Girl” and then did a brief choreographed routine on their own while Twigs made a costume change.
Twigs devoted the middle portion of the show to unreleased material, premiering at least seven new songs in a variety of elaborate outfits and settings. Despite the audience not knowing the songs and not being able to sing along, Twigs brought her extraordinary range of dance experience and theatricality to the forefront and kept the crowd entertained, while injecting in a fair amount of artistic experimentation. At one point, while wearing a ruffled shirt and a pair of red Nike shorts with a matching codpiece, Twigs whipped out a rapier and performed a sword dance, much to the crowd’s delight.
Later, the hanging cloth fixtures that formed the stage’s backdrop came down, revealing a towering metal structure that housed Twigs’ three-piece backing band and her dancers, who swayed and gyrated on the upper level. Among other dance numbers, Twigs would perform an acrobatic pole dance on the structure to her LP1 song “Lights On.”
She closed out the show with a pink-lit rendition of “Two Weeks,” with fuchsia confetti raining down on the audience. As an encore, Twigs took her place in front of the closed curtain once more and sang “Cellophane,” accompanied by only a piano; the otherwise rowdy crowd fell silent to listen to the ballad, with some audience members openly weeping. When she finished, Twigs thanked the now-cheering crowd and took a bow with her dancers and band onstage.